Arriva branch secretary Phil Cooper: “Lack of UK voice in EU has impacted campaign to improve bus safety”

A campaign to improve bus safety has been impacted by Brexit, a Unite branch secretary for Arriva has said.

Middlesborough branch secretary for the Arriva bus company Phil Cooper – who is campaigning for UK bus drivers to be included under EU driving regulations to prevent driver fatigue – says efforts to amend the legislation have stalled because Britain is leaving the EU.

Compared to EU rules for long distance driving, domestic bus driving regulations allow an extra hour’s driving before a break must be taken, stipulate 15 minutes less break between driving periods and limit the day’s driving to 10 hours rather than nine.

This is because, in theory, driver fatigue is seen as less of a problem when driving relatively short distances of under 50 km.

However campaigners point to figures that demonstrate the need to ensure bus drivers, who work long hours under difficult and dangerous conditions, share the same protections as long-distance drivers.

Between 2009 and 2013 buses were involved in 7 per cent of pedestrian deaths in the UK, despite making up just one per cent of traffic, while in 2016, nearly 300 bus and coach occupants were killed or seriously injured, with around 4,000 occupants suffering less severe injuries.

In 2017 – after 25 people were killed by buses in London and another 12,000 injured in just two years – the London Assembly published the “Driven to Distraction” report on bus safety which highlighted driver fatigue as a major concern.

Cooper said efforts to amend EU legislation to cover bus drivers have run into a brick wall since the Brexit vote.

He explained, “Our lobbying was progressing to the European Parliament, but since the Brexit vote we’ve lost our input.

“We felt we had a bit of clout but unfortunately we don’t think that’s the case now we’re preparing to leave.”

Cooper said he believed that under a Tory government there was little hope of improving domestic legislation for bus drivers, particularly because leading Conservative MPs would like to weaken workers’ rights and protections rather than strengthen them.

He said: “I don’t think there’s any coincidence why the majority of people who are pushing for a (hard Brexit) are right-wing.

“I don’t think for working people they will do us any favours because we have gained quite a few employment rights from Europe which are now at risk.”

Cooper also highlighted concerns Arriva employees have about Britain’s post-Brexit trading relationship with Europe.

He said: “Arriva is owned by Deutsche Bahn, which is a German company.

“If trading’s made difficult for the likes of them we do think ‘where will that leave us at the end of it?’”